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    Bill Sweeney defends RFU board and says English rugby is 'on the cusp of something spectacular'

    Bill Sweeney's leadership was challenged at a recent RFU council meeting. Photo: Getty Images/David Rogers

    Bull Bill Sweeney insists he is the right man to continue leading the Rugby Football Union as chief executive and predicts the English game is “on the cusp of something quite exciting”.< /p>

    In less than a year, four professional English clubs have backed down, with grassroots clubs revolting over a proposal to lower the height of tackles below the waist, before there was an outright rebellion within the RFU board last month over the leadership and financial control of the executive. .

    However, Sweeney was able to fend off this direct challenge to his leadership at an RFU board meeting last Friday in what he described as a “rather cynical” coup by “a small group of people who are no longer in the game and have no plans.” “Despite overseeing the most devastating period in English rugby's history, he remains keen to lead the union through negotiations with Premier Rugby over a new Professional Game Agreement (PGP) which he believes could rejuvenate the elite game .

    ' It was a unique moment in time.”

    “Others should probably say if they don't think I'm the right person to do this,” Sweeney said, speaking publicly for the first time in more than nine months. “Personally, I think that given my experience, my education, the balance between business and sports, I think that I am the right person for this.

    “I came to this role for one simple reason. and that's because I'm very passionate about this game. Many of my friends and family would probably be very happy if I didn't do this anymore.

    “But I believe we are on the verge of something quite impressive. It was a unique moment in time because of the financial issues, because of the working relationship with the PRL, our ability to change that relationship around the partnership, to fix the things that were stopping us from winning Six Nations championships regularly.

    “So that the English teams perform more consistently. And I feel that I have the energy, passion and desire to see it through.”

    The PGP, which Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed will include hybrid contracts for more than 20 top players, could be transformative for English rugby, Sweeney said. Looking back at the last 20 years since England last won the World Cup and just four Six Nations titles, Sweeney says the current model is broken and based more on “hope” than anything else.

    'The system must change. '

    “We need to fix a number of issues that have been broken for some time,” Sweeney said. “We know how the English game was built and how it went. There are certain problems with this that have been ongoing and structural in nature that need to be addressed if we are going to get things done.

    “In 20 years we won four Six Nations championships and a World Cup. . This is not what you expect from us as an organization. Regardless of what happens at this year's World Cup, wherever we end up, the system must change. This brings us to the professional gaming partnership.

    “Throughout this period we have had successive management teams in place, but the critical fundamental issues have not been resolved. The opportunity for professional gaming partnerships is to bring the elite game together to make sure that we can thrive and that we have consistently competitive teams and don't have boom and bust periods where it's more based on hope; There's a lot of talent coming into the game and we rely on that, and then there's a quiet period and we can't maintain that level of consistency. This is a key priority for us in a number of areas, in terms of performance pathways, academic structures and bringing talent into the men's game.”

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